George Washington's Christmas Eggnog

The Homemade Eggnog Recipe from Mount Vernon (and the Story Behind It)

December 16, 2020
George Washington

Enjoy this homemade old-school eggnog recipe from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. There’s also an amusing story to tell about this popular recipe, which might offer up a nice little tidbit of cocktail conversation to go with your festive concoction. 

Eggnog was certainly popular during colonial times. Brought over from Britain (and going back to medieval times), eggnog was a special-occasion drink due to its ingredients (milk, eggs, alcohol), which were quite expensive at the time. According to kitchen records, George Washington served an eggnog-like drink to visitors at Mount Vernon loaded with alcohol. 

“George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe” (below) became widely circulated with the claim that it was penned by the first president in his own hand. Here’s the recipe (with added ingredient amounts, since cooks didn’t tend to specify amounts nor servings back in the day, adjusting to the size of the party):

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry – mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well.

Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

So is this Washington’s recipe in his own hand? Although widely circulated as being true, it’s doubtful. We contacted the librarians at Mount Vernon who said that no eggnog recipe has been definitively linked to Washington. It did not come from George or Martha Washington’s papers, Martha Washington’s cookbook (which she inherited from her first marriage), nor was it provided in her personal copy of the Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, which was the most popular English cookbook in America at the time. 

However, the eggnog recipe above is a true vintage recipe; it just comes from the 19th century. George Washington (1732–99) lived in the 18th century.

Mount Vernon Eggnog Recipe 

We do have another homemade eggnog recipe kindly shared by Mount Vernon, as eggnog was indeed a popular drink in the latter half of the 18th century. 

We’ve slightly adapted this recipe to make the ingredient amounts clear. We recommend preparing the mixture a day in advance so it’s well chilled. It’s well worth it! The grocery store stuff isn’t even the same animal.

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs (pasteurized if possible), room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • One-fifth bourbon (750ml bottle)*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • Optional: 1 cup milk
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons nutmeg, freshly grated (not ground)

*Note: You can adjust the amount of alcohol in this recipe or omit it altogether. Or, use a different alchohol on hand; common choices include brandy, rum, bourbon, or whisky. One eggnog recipe we enjoy (from the 1950s) uses “1 cup bourbon and 1 cup Cognac” in place of the one-fifth bourbon.

Directions:

  1. Separate the egg whites and egg yolks very carefully, making sure there is absolutely no yolk in the whites. Cover the egg whites and store in the refrigerator.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. (Or, use an electric or stand mixture with a whisk attachment.) Whip until thick and smooth; it should be lemon yellow in color, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Slowly add the alcohol desired to large bowl while beating at slow speed. Scrape down side of bowl. Chill mixture for several hours or overnight.
  4. In separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until almost stiff. 
  5. Whip the cream until stiff. 
  6. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Chill 1 hour.
  7. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg. Serve in punch cups with a spoon.
  8. If desired, add 1 cup of milk to the yolk mixture for a thinner eggnog.

eggnog_with_nutmeg_full_width.jpg

More Recipes

  • It turns out George Washington WAS known to make a cherry bounce, a brandy-based drink also popular in the eighteenth century. We can say, in full confidence, that this festive alcoholic drink recipe is straight from the Washingtons; it was a hand-written recipe card in Martha Washington’s notebook. Discover George Washington’s Cherry Bounce
  • Prefer a non-alcoholic eggnog? Here’s a recipe for Non-Alcoholic Eggnog
  • Need a Christmas cake to wash that down? Here’s Martha Washington’s “Great Cake” recipe baked for celebrating what she called “a true Virginia Christmas” at Mount Vernon.

See 10 Christmas Drink and Cocktail Recipes!

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Reader Comments

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Missing fractions for alcohol

So - this seems to be missing the fractions for the Whiskey and Rum (1/2 pint each) and sherry (1/4 pint). Every other website, including one that posts a photo of recipe, uses this amount of liquor.

Eggnog Recipe

The Editors's picture

Hi Melissa, Many thanks. In our update from last year, somehow the fractions did indeed get left off. We’ve updated. Now you can drink double the amount! Just kidding. Of course, remember: this recipe may be apocryphal; no eggnog recipe has been definitively linked to Washington. If you make it, let us know how it goes! And take care!

egg nog

so basically we're ingesting raw egg? How safe is that?

eggs

The Editors's picture

If you’re concerned, just make Eggnog using whole, liquid or pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are found next to regular eggs at the store. Or, egg substitutes can also be used. These products have also been pasteurized. Using a pasteurized product means that no further cooking is necessary. OR, if you have your own eggs, pasteurize your eggs by slowly bringing the eggnog ‘base’ to 160 °F.

GW Egg Nog Liquor

After converting the liquor ingredients to smaller measures in the same proportion, I made a small batch to try. I then mixed the liquor with my favorite store-bought brand of egg nog and it was delicious. The mix of flavors is more complex than the standard Virgin Islands rum flavor found in most commercial egg nogs. My wife and I agreed that a small amount of the liquor enhanced the egg nog but more gave it a very boozy flavor, so start with less and add more to your liking. I will keep a bottle of "George Washington Egg Nog Liquor" on hand. Two thoughts on the liquors: (1) use a dry or semi-sweet sherry, not cream sherry and (2) use a gold or amber Jamaican rum rather than a heavy dark Jamaican rum that will overpower the other flavors. This recipe is a keeper!

egg size

I just wonder silly as it may sound. I always buy jumbo eggs and will that effect the recipe in any way if I use as requested the amounts as set forth?

George Washington's eggnog

Since it's annoying to laboriously measure out one after the other twelve tablespoons of sugar, simply measure out 3/4ths of a cup of sugar.

Very tasty

I made this recipe this evening and it was delicious.

GW eggnog

interesting recipe; I also love the 'taste frequently' part ") I quote the recipe "then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs" to those who were unsure how many eggs were used.

George Washington's eggnog.

I made this yesterday. Today it tastes a lot like Irish cream. It is not very sweet. I added some corn syrup after tasting it. I would recommend more sugar added to the egg yoaks. It made about a gallon. I sprinkled it with nutmeg before serving. FYI it tastes nothing like commercial eggnog. It's pretty good. I think it might be a new holiday tradition!

The mixture is approximatly 2

The mixture is approximatly 2 parts mixer to one part liquor. That is not all that strong. I would probably leave out the sherry.

depends on the proof

If you use high proof it can be. Im not sure what the max proof you can get sherry in is. But you can get whiskey, rum, and brandy in 100 proof at least.

My favorite instruction is

My favorite instruction is the last one. "Taste Frequently."

yup! that was my favorite

yup! that was my favorite too...lol ;-)

Yup, It kinda reminds me of

Yup, It kinda reminds me of the Chicago voting style...Vote early and vote often. However, in this case it is taste early and taste often....yum,

There was no or at least

There was no or at least limited cooling areas back then, (no refrigerators or freezers) The alcohol kept the ingredients, which included eggs, from becoming rancid and causing food poisoning.

18th Century Cooling

There were no refrigerators or freezers, but they did have ice houses. Also, this being a Christmas recipe for someone living in the Virginia area, items could be kept cool just by leaving them outside or in a creek or cellar. Don't trust the alcohol to keep it from spoiling at modern day room temperatures.

Sounds very satisfying will

Sounds very satisfying will try later

I want to take some closer

I want to take some closer examine some of the memorabilia!

That is amazing. As I sip on

That is amazing. As I sip on my own glass of eggnog I feel very connected to all the generations that came before...